You can go bargain hunting in Chaguanas, where Indian expos flourish, but without falling victim and prey to the predatory wrecker, snatch and grab bandits, pickpockets, or being splashed with dirty drain water from a passing vehicle like in Port-of-Spain.
Chaguanas has something for everyone.
The Chaguanas Main Road with the iconic Lion House, Chaguanas market, businesses, and street vendors pulse with a vibrant energy unique to the area.
The Divali Nagar site, Hindu temples or mandirs, and mosques are not only for people of the faith, but also attract local and foreign tourists alike.
If you want your vehicle serviced at a one-stop facility, there are numerous places to choose from, plus there are popular places for the fitness conscious and those looking for a good liming spot.
For the foodies and the food truck culture, you can check out PricePlaza Roundabout, opposite Woodford Cafe in Chaguanas, where there is fusion food with the arrival of the new Venezuelan migrants blending local and Bolivarian cuisine.
Mayor Gopaul Boodhan estimated there were 2,500 to 3,000 businesses in the Central borough.
According to Vishnu Charran, president of the Chaguanas Chamber of Industry and Commerce, "Chaguanas was built around indigenous residents after the collapse and subsequent closure of Caroni 1975 Limited. Businesses decided to use whatever resources they had and see how they could survive during that economic downturn.
"Chaguanas developed a reputation of being an area for bargain shoppers and that caused people not only from T&T, but all over the Caribbean to come to the area to shop. We are still trying to maintain that."
He said the ANSA McAl Group of Companies had great foresight because of the late founder and chairman Dr Anthony Norman Sabga’s vision and so they set up businesses in the borough.
Manufacturing plants, home-based businesses being set up
Charran said other businesses and companies also followed suit and Chaguanas was not what it used to look like long ago.
He said a lot of new companies continued to come into the area with distribution centres being set up as it provided easy access, and now there are many companies moving their manufacturing plants to the borough.
Charran said economic activity was still striving in Chaguanas, but the only challenge business people face with the retail sector was because of the fast growth of the area.
He said there will always be small businesses to support the population in any city, so there will be small retailers, manufacturers, home-based industries, and single entrepreneurs.
The influx of Indian expos, he said, had created a problem for the local people who sold Indian products not only in Chaguanas, because they started developing that sector with unfair competition, allowing these foreigners to come here so often and set up business.
Charran said there was a decline in economic activity and consumer spending in the country, not only because of the fall in oil prices but retrenchment as well, so the ripple effect was still spreading.
He said people were now beginning to experience the fallout, businesses were forced to convert their premises to small malls and because of the lack of foreign exchange also, small retail businesses were folding up.
He said he predicted that many small business owners would be the first to feel the effects as they were taking longer to turn over goods, but he did not see the turn around filtering down to the "small man" for the rest of the year.
Charran said it was going to take some time because business people were still going to be faced with the difficulty of getting foreign exchange to import goods.
He said there were a lot of creative people emerging now. Within the chamber, members had recognised there were many home-based businesses like his family and others who started as farmers selling in the market, cutting cane, and planting rice. Charran said he always held out that same hope and desire for other people that they would start with a small idea and develop it.
Future economic centre
On the future of the borough, he said Chaguanas was set to become the economic centre of T&T and an economically thriving city in the near future. He said for people expressing an interest in establishing their businesses in the borough, there was available land and some of it will be converted to facilitate manufacturing concerns.
He said the distribution sector was going to keep on growing as many people will leave the Diego Martin and Port-of-Spain areas to come to the borough. Charran said since many people were relocating to Chaguanas, it stood to reason if companies were relocating to the borough, then naturally, people will also.
He said education today will ensure entrepreneurs grew at a faster rate. With investors ready to put in their money, Charran said people and ideas could flourish.
Charran said, however, many small manufacturers had a challenge getting their products into businesses, not only supermarkets.
He urged Government to partner with the chamber to support those creating cosmetics, hair care products, creams and the like.
'Mayor needs to stop street vending'
Charran said the street vending situation needed to be terminated in Chaguanas and the mayor needed to stop it as he was the one with the authority.
Commenting on the over 100 tickets issued to road-users for various infractions in the borough recently, Charran said this was nothing to boast about as this was killing business and with the economy being down, it caused more harm than good.